Sunday, March 20, 2011

3 Day Similan Islands Trip

Any boat trip on a Thai boat starts off with Chinese Crackers being suspended from a bamboo pole and lit....the noise is to call on all good spirits to protect us at sea. I'd like to do this when we go under the Town Bridge in Weymouth at the start of every Alderney trip...I get the feeling we'd be arrested pretty quick!!!

Cost of a trip to English people is the most important factor....and no matter what I put on here, no matter what the cost, there will be readers saying 'How much??? That's too much!!!' Ah, well....whatever.

Khun Moo owns a tackle shop in Chalong. I arranged the trip through him. The trip cost 50,000 Baht for the three days. 50,000 Baht is about £1,100. On top of that we paid (there were four of us) 2,500 Baht each (£55) for all the tackle to be provided. Moo bought STACKS of gear. We each had trolling gear (Penn Internationals to 50lb class Shimano rods and a vast assortment of trolling lures); an electric reel set-up (electric reel loaded with 1,500 metres of braid, 50 to 80lb class rods),; light spinning gear for live bait fishing; and popper rigs with 15kg rods and Shimano bait-runner reels. This stuff must have cost a fortune!!! You can bring your own tackle....but you need a lot because of the variety of fishing we did.

There were four Thai crew. Two worked the tackle...keeping on top of it, setting it up up etc etc along with Khun Moo. The service was excellent. When we were fishing, all four crew were on standby to assist.

Food onboard was brilliant. There was stacks of fish to eat....but also chicken, pork and plenty of fruit and veg. Very, very good meals.

Popper Lures....Khun Moo brought along two big boxes of lures...all sorts for the trolling and popper fishing.

We stopped for livebait and used the usual 'sandeel feather' rig.....plenty of mackerel and a great big live bait tank to keep them in.

On the way out to the Similan Islands we were trolling. We caught king mackerel and dorado, stacks of small tuna (for bait and Sushi) and mackeral. Here's Richie with his first ever dorado that put up a brilliant fight, leaping out of the sea many times.....very exciting.

We saw plenty of dolphin. We did see marlin jumping but we had agreed to concentrate on drift fishing, fishing at anchor, popper fishing and light lining....none of us enjoy trolling that much so this had all been agreed beforehand.

Fishing in 200 to 22 metres of depth would have been hard work using ordinary reels...especially when we were catching black grouper like these. (See previous Blog on electric reels).

At night we were anchored. You could fish all night if you could stay awake.....we fished as much as we could! Here's a terrific red snapper caught by Keith.

And here's a black grouper....we were using two hook paternoster rigs with 200lb snoods as the grouper grow to 50kg!

Some of you will have fished out of Phuket or experienced the local longtail boat fishing out of compare that sort of catch with this. This is our first day's catch!!!!

It was brilliant having Khun much tackle spread round the boat to cater for each style of fishing. Here were rigs all prepared and ready to go in case of snap-offs or required rig change.

E.F.S.A. World Chairman, Horst Sneider (many of you will meet him in the EFSA Festival to be held in Weymouth in September) was our fourth team member. Horst, as near to that great man Ernest Hemmingway as you will ever meet, has fished everywhere in the world. Listening to his tales, exploits and catches made us realise just how much of an exciting world there is out there to fish in. A good way to experience some of this is to join EFSA!!!!

Trolling is all about letting the gear do the work as the boat travels along at 6 knots. Some people love trolling and most boats out of Chalong concentrate on this style.....we just did it going out to the Similans and back...

We also fished 200m metres on the drift over coral peaks and big granite boulder sea beds.....important to maintain attention at all times due to the fluctuating depths....but the rewards were high with some cracking snapper to 10kg and grouper to 20kg.

Red snapper like these are lively fighters and make amazing eating. Here is Khun Jeng, one of our crew, with a nice red snapper caught by Richard.

If you fish electric, then you have to have a power supply....and here it is....a hefty and weighty battery. Then you need chargers to keep them topped up at night. We had electric cables and chargers all over the's a LOT of gear!

Light spinning rods at the ready at the bow of the boat.

This is the Thai equivalent of the red gurnard...strange looking fish, especially the mouth area. This is EFSA Chairman, Mr Horst Sneider.

You might be able to make out the depth on the sounder...over 200 metres.

Khun Saam...another of the crew with a very nice ruby snapper.

We were like a floating tackle shop...Khun Moo had certainly worked very hard on our behalf.....

Horst is at the stern along with crewman Khun Chaa. The Thai crew were excellent....very helpful. They couldn't speak much English but who's the brotherhood of fishing and we all speak the same language of friendship.

We ate lots of fish!! (Don't worry...there's lots of other stuff to eat if you don't like fish)
The crew were all dab hands at cooking and all helped each other to do the various jobs.

The EFSA flag flies the world over.............

Now, I could write a massive feature on this trip as we did so much...but I hope the photo's give a flavour of what we got up to. You may have enjoyed the Blogs on the Freshwater fishing as well. I want to push the fishing as much as possible....but it's all up to who comes here to stay and what you can afford.
Last night I had dinner with John Pearce (you can look him up on Facebook...just type in his name and Phuket). John runs a top of the range Game Boat and concentrates on Andaman Island trips....5 dyas seems favourite. He confirmed the price yeaterday....£2,000 per day! So, £10,000 for 5 days...and you have to fly there from India. Four on the boat is as much as you compare that at £2,500 each (without tips) as compared to us at £370 each.
John's boat is the height of air-conditioned luxury. Our boat was a 15 metre wooden chugger Thai boat. Facilities were very, you really get what you pay for.
This will probably be the final Blog from Thailand this year. I go back to Weymouth in 2 days this 'winter season's adventures' draw to a close. It's been brilliant...each time her e gets better. But it's all up to you guys who come to stay to make it a good experience. I have to say that this season we have enjoyed the company of some smashing, thanks to everyone for coming and now I look forward to returning to Weymouth and seeing my sons again....and getting back out into the English Channel with all my delightful, merry customers.
See you soon!!

Electric reels in The Similans

The seven Similan Islands lay some 50 miles out in the Andaman Sea to the west of Koa Lak which is 50 miles north of Phuket. The name may ring a bell with some of you as this area was very badly hit in the 2004 Tsunami.

Much of our fishing over the three days took place another 5 miles or so further west in depths ranging from 150 to 220 metres and we needed a fair bit of lead to get the two hook paternoster rigs down to those depths.

Our fishing guide, Mr Moo, the Phuket equivalent of Alderney's Mark Harding, is an angling fanatic and full of enthusiasm. He provided all the tackle for the four of us and himself on the trip. This cost £50 each for hire of the tackle. You could bring your own but it would be virtually impossible to carry all the stuff required on the plane and the gear was top quality and very expensive. We used four different set of gear over the three day period.

These electric reels cost between £600 and £1,200 each depending on make etc and were loaded with 1,500 metres of 80lb braid.....very expensive if there was a snap off due to the very snaggy bottom being caught.

Controls were simple to use...basically a 'let down', a 'retrieve' and a fast rerieve (used on the strike) buttons. There were a whole range of further tuning controls but those 3 bttons were enough. The drag system was a simple star drag.

The reels also had depth metres on them which was very useful especially on the retireve. We had four Thai crew on the boat and they stayed with us until they were sure we had mastered the reels. The main problem is anglers not watching the retrieve and keeping the reel in power wind...and jamming the first swivel into the rod tip. Result of this is either first ring destruction, rop tip snapping or the reel getting jammed in gear and in danger of a burn out. It's very hard to get the reels repaired in Thailand.

I guess it's up to each of you if you are in favour of an electric reel or not. I have never used one before....and I wasn't too keen to start with. However, the alternative would be to use a twin speed reel like a Shimano Beast Master. And 220 metres is a very long way to bring your gear up for a bait check with the 2lb (or 3lb) lead required. And try going it with a double figure fish or two fighting back.

Coral reefs are very the weights used are like cut to weight. Set on a rotton bottom...simple but effective

It's better to fish a few turns off the bottom and keep a tight control on the line because when the boat swings (we were at anchor for much of the time...yes, in 220 metres) then the depth varies considerably. Thus the rods were placed under constant pressure.

Here's Richie bending into a hefty fish.....but no problem as the reels are very powerful bits of kit. You just get the drag set right and...hang on!!!!!

The reels were all different makes.....if you click on the photo then it will enlarge within the Blog and you tackle enthusiasts can see for yourselves the make of model of each reel.

Here's Keith bending into a fish.

The great thing about this trip is you could fish as much as you wanted...all night if you could keep awake. It's tiring and the old Thai fishing boats do rock and roll. You may also see how low the gunnels are set and that there are no safety you have to keep alert and maintain your balance. It's no good coming on such a trip and then spending the whole time whining about safety etc....the Thai's will just laught at you.

After this trip, I am converted to the using of electric reels when fishing in such depths. It would be too exhausting, especially in the 30 degrees+ heat, to keep fishing for hours with a non-electric reel.

So, a very good new done that I hope some of you will be able to experience when you come here for your winter holiday.
Off out now....with John Pearce...charter skipper who left UK 25 years ago and worked for Wahoo Gamne Fishign for a long time but currently runnign a superb Game Boat owned by a wealthy gentleman from Singapore. John's come back from a month chartering in the Andaman Islands catching marlin, giant tuna and sailfish.
Prices for his charters are astronomical (£2k per day)...there's no where I will ever be able to go on such a boat trip...but tonight will be a great evening listening to his adventures.Tomorrow I will do the Blog section on the actual trip we did and the terrific fish we caught....we MUST do more of this fishing...but it's all up to you chpas when/if you come if we can get such another triop together.

Thai Gals

Yo Ho...and before I start banging on about electric reels, fish and more fish....let's just have a look at several of the young ladies our current dynamic duo have befriended....for no other reason than that they are charming, always smiling, polite, friendly, good natured....and extremely good at indoor sports.

Sawadi Krab, Khun Jeb......watching you wandering around my house has been a heart warming experience....

And Nong....ah, what that smile has done for young Richard.................

And let's not forget Daa......she of the terrific sense of humour and her 'kindness to Papa' gestures....

...and 'the boss' of one of the many Chalong Bars....Khun Jin...always welcomes us with a free drink and a neck massage whilst you are cooling down from a hot day at sea....

And why not finish with another snap of Keith's young lady, Jeb....
Somehow, I think our 'Welcome Back from Sea' in the Sailors Return' will not be quite the same....
I shall leave these up for a few hours whilst I gird myself for a look at our 3 day Similan Island trip....which resulted in 500kg of fish......!!!!!!!!!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monk's House Blessing

Jai and I were invited to our Thai neighbour's House Blessing Ceremony.

This is an important part of Thai Culture....but there is also the complications of Social Status to take into account. Status is reflected by the number of monks who are invited to come to give the Blessing. 9 is the maximum.....and only for those at the top end of the social hierarchy. A family who are not wealthy or do not have the required status may only be able to afford one monk. But, on the other hand, the main thing in terms of Buddhism, is not the number of monks who attend but the quality and sincerity of the prayers offered by all those in attendance! Well, YOU figure it out. Thai Culture is massively complex....and I am just skating along the surface....and probably always will.

Our neightbour, Khun Tony, is the owner of J.B. Pools and exports pools all over the world, especially to China. He was telling me that this year he had a big export contract to Libya that's all out of the window with the troubles over there.

Thai upper class people are famous for their politeness. It is EXTREMELY important for everyone to be VERY polite. Correct greetings, correct social etiquette observed, correct behaviour at all times.

Also, the Thai upper class ladies are very easy to tell. Not only are they incredibly polite and courteous, they pride themselves on being 'white skinned'. If you are means you work out in the sun. Only the 'lower class' have to work out in the, farmers...and fishermen. I am, of course, at the very lowest end of the social scale...I am tanned, I work in the sun, I am a fisherman. We are known in England as 'Scum'.....and that's about my level over here!! Ha gets very confusing for the Thai's because status is also accorded to Education and apparant wealth. We Europeans can afford to travel.....thus by Thai definition we are rich...and so we are high up the social scale. But then we like to go out in the sun and go brown! Oh dear, very confusing!! I have many entertaining converstations with my confused Thai neighbours.

You can see in this photo above how elegant...and white....upper class Thai ladies are!

Tony lives 2 houses away. Since I have been here, he has been a terrific neighbour. We have been to each other's parties. Remember, I confused everyone here as I was the first person on the project to hold the Monks House Blessing Ceremony (with 7 monks; Tony had 9...ooops!), and then the Spirit House Ceremony and finally a full on House Warming party 3 years ago.
in which we all got drunk on Thai Whiskey and threw each other in the pool.

I really like the hypnotic chanting that the monks perform for at least an hour at these ceremonies. They chant in Sanskrit...the old Indian language ( a bit like our Church services were held in Latin not so long ago) so the Thais understand the actual meaning of the language as much (or as little) as me!

The monks are extremely nice people. They come from all levels of socail life...but once they become monks, everyone is equal (is there such a thing?). Most Thai men enter the monkhood for at least once in their lifetime. They can stay for at least a month...but can remain as long as they like. Last year, I met a fisherman who had entered the monkhood for a month 'to please his father'. But this year, he is still there. He says it has given him a different outlook on his life...and he can stay as long as he likes....Many of the monks can speak good English. They study English and skills in the Temple and will often go to outlying villages to teach children whose parents cannot afford to send them to school.

Food is really important in Thailand. Again, the correct rituals must be observed at such a gathering. And it is important to have STACKS of food. you might recall the HSB adverts on TV when the Bank representative is in China.....and is in a Chinese restaurant. He finishes his more (and larger portions) are brought; he finishes that as well...the Chinese are the end they bring him a bloody gurt conger eel and slap that on the table in an attempt to satisfy him!! It's polite in Europe to finish your Asia, it means your host has not provided enough!!!!! Oh no, the disgrace!!

So, if there isn't enough food to offer the guests...then this is terrible for the host! Everyone should end up more than full with plenty of food left....this shows the household can provide for everyone with plenty to spare. This spare food is then distributed to the 'poor people' via the monks. (Luckily, I get a doggy I regarded as poor or just an eccentric Foreigner who loves Thai food?)

Thai food is richly varied in colour and texture...........and believe me, real Thai food is spicy. I don't just mean a whimpy tingle on your tongue like in the restaurants catering for us mamby pambies......I mean 'eyeballs leaving their sockets and going into orbit' level! Wow!!!.......on fire for the rest of the day!!

And here are our charming hosts with Khun Tony on the right with his wife, Khun Jaa and then his son and wife.

The morning ceremony started at 0800 and The Jai and I left at 1300 in the afternoon!!!......but the 'party' continued until evening. The Thais certainly know how to throw a good House Blessing.

Friday, March 11, 2011


Today was going to be the Jean/Graham Versus the June/Graham Grand Fishing Competition. We've already had several golfing the team were very excited about this new challenge.

The favourites were our June/Graham team as Graham had proved himself to be a nifty striker a couple of weeks ago at the same venue.

But, as dawn broke and we were awakened by the monks next door chanting yet more blessings (well, we need 'em), the sad news came from above that June had been disabled by the dreaded 'trots' and would be unable to concentrate on her fishing...which as we all know requires a good deal of bending under strain....not a good idea in the circumstances.

But undeterred by this natural disaster, Jean and Graham decided to carry on with the day's plan...and for both of them this was their first ever attempt at lake fishing.

We got off to a flying start with a couple of catfish and a nice Siamese carp in the first hour.....but then we descended into a lengthy lull broken only by losing fish into the weeds or getting 'bitten off'. There was also an impressive amount of casting high into the trees...quite amazing how much foliage became snarled up on our duo's hooks. Leaves, branches, weeds, rushes...this pair are definitely the most inventive when it comes to casting techniques. I was extremely grateful for the bamboo shelters provided around the lake as places that I could duck into and hide when casting took place.

In the next swim were young Max and father Henry from Warwickshire. They had a magnicent day and could not stop catching....they reckoned they landed 30 fish at least....everytime we looked they were into fish. And this is the first time I have seen a red tailed catfish and a domehead catfish come from this lake. They also caught pirhana and carp. Here's young Max with a redtailed catfish.

But then, as often happens with fishing, we started to get a few bites and five more very nice carp and catfish came to the net.

Our novices did us proud.....3 carp with the best one at 30lb, five catfish to about 15lb, 17 branches, 182 bank reeds and an array of flora and fauna were all hooked and returned safely!

Another great day at Phuket Fishing Park.......